Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

Executive success: From receptionist to the top job

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Reckon NZ boss Catie Cotcher. Picture / Jason Oxenham
Reckon NZ boss Catie Cotcher. Picture / Jason Oxenham

When Catie Cotcher started with accounting software company Reckon 17 years ago, she was the receptionist.

Back then it was a team of three and her job was to handle all the customer service enquiries and admin, while manning the front desk.

Nowadays she's the boss.

The 38-year-old has been running the New Zealand arm of the Australian-listed business for nearly seven years.

"It's meant that I can come into a leadership position with a real sense of understanding for the team that I run because I've had that experience personally so I understand and empathise with what their day-to-day lives are," says Cotcher.

"It gives me a good ground and a good understanding of the business and also quite a good historical understanding of the business - where we have come from and where we are going.

"I think that is quite positive."

Being only just in her 30s when she took over running the New Zealand business "definitely had its challenges".

"But I love challenges, so for me it was quite exciting, so it was an amazing step.

"It gave me a massive opportunity.

"It's always a challenge being younger but it's also something to embrace as well.

"I never felt that that was an issue."

The workforce in Reckon's central Auckland office now numbers close to 100 and the floppy disks and CD-ROM updates have been updated with cloud computing products.

"To see the rate of technological change has been quite incredible over that time," says Cotcher.

"I think it has increased exceptionally over the last seven to eight years."

Around the time Cotcher moved into the top job, Reckon was rebranding its products, dropping the Quicken name as it ended its relationship with US software developer Intuit and launching its own cloud-based software in response to market rivals.

Accounting software is a competitive environment but Cotcher says that's a standard business challenge these days.

"I think any industry has its challenges and the likes of Xero and MYOB have done really well, but I'm really excited about what Reckon is going to bring to the table and what our future holds here in the marketplace."

She says the Reckon point of difference is its longevity in the marketplace, having started 30 years ago distributing accounting software in Australia and New Zealand.

It now has three business arms, offering practice management systems to accounting firms, including three out of the big four; a document management system; and the accounting software for small-to-medium sized businesses.

Recent growth in its product range has come through development and the acquisition of business software to complement its existing line-up, says Cotcher.

She says future expansion in New Zealand will come from two areas.

There is still a "massive opportunity" to keep moving businesses to cloud-based systems, she says.

Alongside that will be software developments assisting and streamlining business process, such as the document management software or the changes to allow easier interaction with the IRD.

It's set against a background of change in the accounting profession.

"I think in the last four years there has been a lot of change in terms of the expectations on the accounting industry and what I mean by that is there has been a shift in the services that they offer.

"They're becoming a lot more of an adviser rather than an accountant and with that, obviously, they need the tools to be able to do that successfully and to be able to have their daily tasks streamlined as much as possible."

Cotcher says there is a huge opportunity for accountants to become quite innovative in the services they offer to clients.

Managing through the ups and downs of rapid change, she has learnt to be open and honest with her staff and clients.

"I think as a leader you have to be supportive, you have to be caring, you have to be grounded and I think that's where my history has been quite good in terms of allowing me to really understand what the teams are going through and working with them on the ground level rather than sitting in an office at the top of the food chain."

After notching up 17 years, Cotcher says it's still "fresh and fast and exciting".

"If you lose the passion, that's when you should be looking to move on."

- NZ Herald

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Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

Helen Twose is a freelance business journalist who writes regularly about KiwiSaver and entrepreneurial companies. She has written for the Business Herald since 2006, covering the telecommunications sector, but has more recently focused on personal finance and profiling successful businesses.

Read more by Helen Twose

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